They are the quiet ones, Typists. Secretaries. Filing Clerks. Receptionists.
Mostly women, they do their office jobs efficiently, uncomplainingly -- expecting that higher-ups will notice their worth and see that they get promoted.
Unfortunately, say career counselors, that's usually not the way things work. Not in the business world. Not in the federal bureaucracy.
Unless, you reach out for that promotion yourself -- take your career in your own hands -- chances are you are going to be stuck in the same job. And as the years pass by, you're going to become increasingly frustrated.
To reach workers who may find themselves in this category, the Army has begun to offer a limited series of workshops for civilian employes at the clerical and secretarial level (GS-3 to -7).
"We want to motivate them to be their own employment agencies for upward mobility," says consultant John F. Hallen, who designed the workshops and has been leading them for the past year with associate Carolynn Taetle, a career development trainer and consultant.
So far, the two-day courses have been limited to headquarters staff at the Pentagon. About 90 employes -- including two males -- participated in a series of six last year, and 90 are now enrolled in a similar series.
"We're raising the level of truth about the limitations of bureaucracy," says Hallen, a former catholic priest who has been an Army consultant on "organization effectiveness" since 1973. "At this level, people think that if they do a good job, the institution will reward them.
"Sometimes it will happen. Often it will not."
Employes, he tells the workshop participants, "have to learn how to articulate and make themselves visible. Moving up the ladder is competitive. If you're not active, then you diminish your chances."
The Army bureaucracy, says Hallen -- whose firm also counsels individuals and groups outside the military -- keeps its eyes on an officer's career path."But they don't do that at the secretarial level."
One problem he has seen -- even among secretaries who have been on the job for 10 or more years -- is a "naivete about the power of their bosses. People at that level tend to rely on their immediate supervisors for upward mobility. That's not realistic. They don't have all the power you would expect."
He tells his students "to think of the federal government as a big arena" with numerous advancement possibilities outside their own office.
Much of the course involves helping participants translate off-the-job activities -- such as running a home or doing volunteer work -- into skills they can market for a better job.
Someone who is treasurer of a condominium association, for example, may be able to convince the boss to give added responsibilities in office budgeting -- and a pay raise.
Many employes, he suggests, under-value the responsibility level at which they are performing. They may be classified as secretaries, but doing the work of an office manager. This, too, is something they can point out to their bosses.
To get ahead in the federal bureaucracy, Hallen and Taetle suggest that you:
Learn to explore "the hidden job market."
Supervisors, says Taetle "for very legitimate reasons, hire people they know they can get along with. Part of your responsibility is that you get known. If two equally qualified people are going for a job -- and someone else already is there -- then they get the better shot.
"It's what you know and who you know."
Identify and articulate your skills. In interviews or on your SF 171 (the federal resume), don't simply list past responsibilities.
Include, says Hallen, things in action-oriented phrases like "supervising a group, establishing a plan, recruiting people to work, designing a new filing system, making people coming into the office comfortable."
Key your presentation to the requirements of the position you are seeking . In other words, tell prospective bosses what they want to hear.
Develop your SF 171 so it represents your best and full self . One tip: cut and paste the form so that it can be read straight through from top to bottom without detours to back-up material.
Some secretaries, say Hallen and Taetle, who before might have told a supervisor "it's not in my job description," are now apt to say, "I'd like to do that. It gives me experience I can market."